When I was growing up, gymnastics and skating were my passions. While I loved my sports, I always regretted never playing on a real team–the closest I got was being one of three sisters. Nowadays, I have two young boys who are completely into team sports–baseball, basketball, and soccer are among their favorites.
Usually, when we arrive at the field or the gym, the energy is palpable. When a team works, it works! But like most kids, my boys have also been on teams that simply never gel. The same happened to our Boston Red Sox last summer. When that happens, nobody wins!
The same is true for teams within organizations and teams of students working together. Whether you’re building a high-performing corporate team or engineering an effective learning environment, your attention to how the team forms and works together can make a huge difference in the groups’ overall success. If we use Bruce Tuckman’s model for small group development, introduced in 1965 and amended 10 years later (that’s when he added “adjourning”), I think we can improve both learning environments and team performance. Following are the characteristics of each stage:
Tuckman’s model has been widely used and analyzed. Many have reflected that the stages are neither as distinct from one another or as linear as the model suggests. For trainers and teachers, the most important takeaway is the acknowledgment that whenever we ask groups to work together (even if the task is as simple as “share your insights and report back as a group,”) they will experience the forming-storming-norming-performing stages in some form. We should consider how we can ease the early-stage challenges, so they can quickly reap the benefits of later stages of working together. In light of this model, we might: